The late evangelist Rev. Billy Graham once said, “Nothing can bring a real sense of security into the home except true love.” For 2018 TMU graduates Rachel Gregory and Catherine Smith, this famous quote was the foundation of their nonprofit organization—Whispers of Love.
Just over 7,500 miles away in Uganda, a small village called Iganga has stolen the hearts of these two psychology graduates. After previously venturing to the country during separate mission experiences and falling in love with the people and culture they found in Uganda, the two alumni planned on volunteering more in the future but had not made definite plans.
Foundation of hope
In 2013, Smith reconnected with Ugandan local Irene Kaziba, who was interested in starting a home for orphaned babies. “She explained her heart for the children of Uganda and her vision of creating a home to raise children who have been abandoned or orphaned,” Smith said. After relaying the information to Gregory, the two felt a burden for the children themselves. “We knew that we wanted to be a part of this, so that is when we started Whispers of Love.”
The two set out to find funding, housing, and prayer warriors that would come alongside this vision and help bring to life Faith Children’s Village, which is funded by Whispers of Love. They knew that the country’s extremely high poverty level, large Islamic population, and low life expectancy made it a good place to share the love of Jesus while providing necessities to the local orphaned children.
“The psychology classes we took have been a huge help within the walls of the children’s homes,” said Smith. “Many of these kids have had very traumatic lives. For us, the psychology backgrounds have helped, but learning these principals in a biblically-based classroom made a tremendous impact on how we mentor and counsel the children.”
Within the past year, the organization purchased a new house and six apartments that will allow children to live separately, based on their ages and gender. They also hired a full-time social worker to provide guidance and counseling if a problem occurs as well as two “mamas,” as they are called, who live on the premise and provide full-time cooking, cleaning, and encouragement to the children through Bible study.
A Father’s love
“Everyone who is currently working here is helping to make sure these children understand how to honor the Lord in everything they do,” Gregory said. “It is our hope that these children not only know how to be great citizens of Uganda but that they also grow up understanding how deep the Father’s love is for them.”
“At the beginning, we shared Bible stories with them about Christ, and the social worker would then translate lessons,” Gregory explained. ͞When we started, the kids would look at us like they had no clue what we were talking about, but by the end of our time there, they were able to understand and apply the message.”
At thirteen years old, a small orphan named Lydia was found living on the streets by the Ugandan police and brought to Faith Children’s Village. During her first weeks in the village, she struggled in school as well as in the home. One night, Lydia said that she would like to learn how to read so that she could be a doctor one day. It was so evident that Lydia’s struggle with school wasn’t laziness but simply that she didn’t know how to be a good student. Since then, Lydia worked with a tutor and quickly jumped grade levels. “She is not only showing improvement at school,” Gregory said, “but also at Bible study overnight. She asks questions and strives to fully understand what God has intended for her life.”
The leaders have also recognized that the children improve as a result of individualized attention, which they continue to implement into the home. “If you are one of the quiet ones, it is easy to get lost in a home of thirty children,” said Gregory. “After spending extra one-on-one time for several months with one of the young girls who was having trouble, she began to blossom by communicating more and doing better in school.”
Since foster care does not exist in Uganda, the Whispers of Love founders plan to educate more families to be host-homes for weekend getaways. “Just getting some family time would be so beneficial to these kids,” Gregory said.
Faith Training Center
When the two returned to the States from their first trip after officially launching Whispers ofLove, Smith felt like something was missing. “I contacted Dr. Holly Haynes, Dean and Associate Professor in the School of Psychology and Biblical Counseling at TMU, about an idea I had. She was like, “What are you going to do about it?”
With guidance from Dr. Haynes, Smith began to implement her idea—to provide discipleship to women in the village through business training that she called the Faith Training Center. Smith had the idea approved as part of her senior capstone project, and after much prayer and a bit of persuasion to get Gregory to join her, the two moved to Iganga, Uganda, for a little over sixteen weeks in an effort to help Ugandan women be able to support their families financially.
Today, there are thirty women who are working at the Faith Training Center. They are learning to tailor and make handmade crafts, aprons, mats, and other household needs to sell in the United States and parts of Uganda. The women are also required to attend a weekly Bible study to encourage them in their walks with Christ, while gaining wisdom and counsel from older women.
“The goal for us was to help provide sustainability to the women,” said Gregory. “Many are widows or single, and we wanted to provide a salary that would allow them to pay for their needs and allow wiggle room for things that come up in life. This opportunity also allows us to help them make household budgets, a valuable tool for their futures.”
“I think one of my favorite parts of the whole experience was the first payday, said Smith. “They had worked so hard and put long hours in, and to be able to see their excitement was so worth it. I witnessed one of the women in the group named Kay on her knees with her hands up just praying and thanking God before she received her payment.”
Gregory laughed and said, “I remember one of the women saying, ‘We actually work here?’ and I kept reassuring her that yes, we didn͛t want her to leave, and this was a real job. I think the women had a hard time realizing that this was just their first payday and not their only payday.”
The goal of this business model is to provide the tools to empower the Ugandan women to either start their own businesses or to remain employed by Whispers of Love. If they choose to start their own businesses, Whispers of Hope will review their business plans and provide them sewing machines.
Support Back Home
Gregory and Smith, along with other volunteers, spent the summer in Uganda, maintaining Whispers of Hope and working on implementing new homes, jobs, and resources for those involved with ministry. Part of the ministry is to record their days on video in order to share in fundraising efforts. One of the videos captures a village woman who can be seen dancing and singing as she works on the handmade necklaces; an orphan child’s face lighting up as he recites Bible verses; and a seamstress concentrating on the sewing machine as she seeks perfection on the piece she carefully stitches together.
It is evident in these videos that Whispers of Love has brought the love of God and a sense of hope to many in this secluded village. While there have been difficult roads to travel, and quite the learning experience along the way, the counsel of Dr. Holly Haynes has provided the encouragement they needed to get through this first year of ups and downs.”This has been our learning year,” Smith said with a smile. “We are starting to find out what works and what doesn’t. Anytime we have needed Dr. Hayes while in Uganda, she has been there to help us.”
Love for the Future
With graduation behind them, the two continue to prepare for their future careers in the psychology field and for their ministry in Uganda. “Our goal now is to continue to expand the women’s crafting abilities by purchasing a knitting machine for them to make scarves and gloves for schools so that they can start marketing more products in Uganda. We want to be able to teach English to some of the older women that would like to learn.”
And for the children’s home, the two hope to expand and purchase more housing and more supplies. “We have even discussed with church members here about possibly fostering some of the children.” The girls also hope to provide jobs to women and children who have escaped sex trafficking in the United States. They would like to open a thrift store and allow these women to work there, while selling some of the items made by the Ugandan women. The future is full of endless and rewarding possibilities for Smith and Gregory. They plan to build financial support so that they can eventually call Uganda their home.
“We are not exactly sure of all the plans, but we know our goal is to provide more sustainable projects as well as earn money to maintain the children’s homes and the Faith Training Center in Uganda. It can be stressful at times, but we know that God will always provide.” said Gregory.
The mission of TMU is to equip students to fulfill the Great Commission. It is evident these two missionaries want to see others come to know Christ through their efforts here and in Uganda. “Sometimes you have to step out into the unknown, even when it’s a little scary,” Smith said. “At times, it’s been very scary, but we have relied on our faith in the Lord to help us answer this call.”
To help fund Whispers of Love, or stay up to date with their email list, visit the Whispers of Love homepage.